Determined to one day "own the sky," Robert L. Scott, Jr., dreamed of flying from the day he saw his first aircraft. At the age of 12, he attempted to fly a homemade glider from the roof of a three-story house, but cleared only the first tree when the wing snapped and he ended up in a bed of roses. This turned out to be the only crash of his flying career. After graduation from West Point in 1932, Scott attended flight training at Randolph Field, Texas. After earning his wings in 1933, he was assigned to Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York, flying the 0-1G Falcon. In 1934, when the Army Air Corps took over the troubled airmail delivery, Scott volunteered for this dangerous duty because it promised nearly unlimited flying.
For the next 5 months, Scott regularly traveled the route between Newark and Cleveland. In October 1934, he married Catherine Rix Green--Kitty Rix--and 6 months later they were transferred to Panama where Scott flew P-12s. At the end of their 3-year tour, he was transferred to Randolph Field and assigned to Flying Training Command. He remained in Flying Training Command until the outbreak of World War II. As the war began, he bluffed his way into a classified operation, Task Force Aquila, a follow-up to the Doolittle Raid, using B-17s to attack Japan.
When the classified operation was canceled after his arrival in Pakistan, Scott volunteered to fly transports over the "Hump" from Burma into China to resupply General Chennaults American Volunteer Group known as the Flying Tigers. Drawing on his previous fighter experience, he convinced Chennault to loan him a P-40 Warhawk to help escort transports. On 4 July 1942, Scott was given command of the recently formed 23d Fighter Group. As commander of this prestigious group, he achieved 13 aerial victories against Japanese aircraft, with five more probable kills. Returning to the States in January 1943 as an ace, Scott was directed by General Arnold to travel nationwide on a public relations tour. It was during this tour that he wrote the book God Is My Co-Pilot, which quickly became a wartime best seller and movie.
Following the war, Scott served as Commander of Williams Field and the first jet fighter school located there. In 1951, he was given command of the 36th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Furstenfeldbruck Air Base, Germany. His final assignment was as Commander of Luke Air Force Base. Retired since 1957, Brigadier General Scott has accumulated some 14,000 hours in military aircraft and has written 15 books. In 1980, at the age of 72, Scott fulfilled a 30-year ambition by returning to China and walking on the Great Wall he had flown by during World War II.
Beginning 13 February 1934, the Army Air Corps was tasked by the President to carry the airmail. During the next 5 months, Lieutenant Robert L. Scott, Jr., assigned to the 99th Observation Squadron and flying the O-39, regularly carried mail over the 358 miles from Newark to Cleveland know as "the Hell Stretch." Although plagued with extreme weather and inadequate equipment, Scott and his fellow pilots demonstrated the flexibility of the Air Corps and its value to the nation.